Castiel did not understand the bus system. Once he and the clerk had worked out where he was headed, she cheerfully informed him that the last bus due there had gone ten minutes before, and the next one wasn’t due for two more days. He had spent the two days in the station, eating food from the tiny kiosk and playing with small children.
Castiel loved small children. They were pure, and innocent, and were honest in the way they saw life. He often wished he were more like human children than anything else, though whenever Dean called him a child it felt hurtful.
He’d endured the apprehensive looks from their parents, the ones that seemed to question Castiel’s motivations, but it soon faded when they realised he was providing them with a few minutes peace. After all, he was staying right in front of them, not touching the children. They played a lot of fun games, like I-spy and lego and loom bands. But they all got on their buses before his were due.
He slept too, curled up on a few hard metal seats when his vessel showed signs of exhaustion. When he’d gone to use the restroom, a kind elderly lady had provided him with some soap. They had also sat together for a few hours, and Castiel had briefly explained about the situation with Dean, before listening to her talking about her grandchildren, who she was on the way to see.
She too had left before his bus was even ready, but Castiel hadn’t minded. The wait had been full of new friends and adjusting to being human. It was spending time on the bus that worried him.
He had sat alone for an hour or so, listening to the chatter of the humans at the front of the bus, and realising he couldn’t make out anything that they were saying. All his angelic powers were gone. Did Sam or Dean know that? Did they care any more? What if they realised they needed him on a case and then he couldn’t do anything because he didn’t know and they died?
‘Hey, is anyone sitting here?’ A young girl asked. Castiel looked up, and saw a girl who must have only been eighteen smiling down at him. She was very prim and proper, nothing like the girls that Castiel had met so far.
‘Do you mind if I take it?’
Castiel wanted to ask where she’d be taking it to, but his usual curiosity wasn’t as piqued.
She sat down beside him, arranging her skirt around her and balancing her purse on her knee.
‘I’m Savannah by the way.’
‘That’s a strange name. And you don’t seem like the usual type to use the bus.’ She smiled at him.
‘The usual type?’
‘I mean, I don’t either, but there’s a look that people get. Almost defeated, you know? But you look very hopeful.’
Castiel had been feeling hopeful. After all, he was on his way back to Becky’s house, and from there he’d find his way back to Dean, and then he’d explain and he’d ask Dean to please give him another chance. And Dean would, wouldn’t he? Dean would forgive him, like he always does, and he’d reconsider … right?
‘I do feel hopeful,’ he admitted. ‘What about you? You don’t appear to be defeated.’
She raised a hand to her mouth to giggle.
‘I guess not, but appearances can be deceptive. After all, I’m on a bus.’
‘I guess for me, it’s the destination that counts.’
She cocked her head as she gave this some thought.
‘That’s a good way of looking at it. So what’s at your destination?’
‘A very important person. To me, anyway. What about you?’
‘My mom. She had to move away for a treatment she couldn’t get anywhere else. Money’s suddenly tight, so I have to get the bus. But I know that God is watching over us, making sure my momma gets better, and that I’ll get to her safely.’
Castiel paused for a moment.
‘I don’t think God is doing that.’
‘Of course he is, silly! God watches over us all and protects us, makes sure we come to no harm. You just have to pray to him, and he’ll see you right.’
‘I haven’t heard from God in years,’ Castiel argued back. ‘It’s the angels that listen to prayers, if you pray to the right one.’
Savannah seemed agitated now.
‘I don’t know what kind of satanic-worshipping heathen you are, but I know God loves me and he protects me, and the Lord Jesus does too.’
Castiel looked away from the girl. She wasn’t going to believe that he was a former angel, and that God had been missing for years. He expected them to stop talking, to fall into an awkward silence, but Savannah obviously had other ideas.
‘Look, God is watching over you as well, I’m sure he is. Maybe you’re just not listening?’
Castiel sighed, and nodded along with her.
‘So this important person, why don’t you tell me about them?’
Castiel smiled, thinking of Dean.
‘His name is Dean, and he’s taught me everything. He’s the best person I know, my best friend. We had a fight a few days ago, I’m trying to find him again to apologise, to try and work things out. We have to work things out.’
‘What did you fight about?’
Castiel sighed again. It sounded so horrible out loud, what he did, the way he acted. He did it all with the best of intentions, but that didn’t seem to have any effect.
‘I can handle complicated.’
‘Well, we agreed to try dating, and we set some terms for our dates, but then the reality of our situation made things complicated. Dean got upset and we fought, and I think he broke up with me. But I can’t give up on us, I need to make things right with him. I love him.’
Castiel looked at Savannah earnestly, who gave a weak smile in return.
‘I could help you right now,’ she promised.
‘You could? You know Dean?’
‘No,’ she shook her head. ‘But I know how to make things right. Give me your hands.’
Castiel obliged, noting how small and delicate her hands were, how smooth the skin was. It was nothing like holding Dean’s hands.
‘Okay, Castiel, we’re going to pray. We’re going to pray to Jesus, and he’s going to help, okay?’
Castiel didn’t see what Jesus was going to do. He spent most of his time in Heaven reliving all his angel-provided miracles. But this girl seemed well-meaning, so Castiel nodded, allowing her to continue.
‘Okay. Close your eyes. We’re going to pray out the gay, okay?’
Castiel nodded again, not understanding what she meant by pray out the gay.
‘Dear Lord Baby Jesus, please hear our prayer and find a way of healing Castiel. Find some way of guiding him back onto the righteous path that you set out for us. Find some way of taking Dean out of his system and washing his soul cle-‘
Castiel snatched his hands back.
‘Honey, I didn’t finish the prayer.’
‘I want Dean in my system. And I don’t have a soul.’
Savannah’s face crumpled.
‘Of course you do, Castiel. And Dean is a temptation down a bad road, you shouldn’t want him in your system. He’s going to drag you into hellfire.’
Castiel didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that. That was how they had first met, when Castiel cradled Dean’s soul and carried him out of the pit, back into his newly formed body. He had saved Dean from that fate. How could their relationship be so wrong? Was this way Dean had been so reticent in displaying affection for him in public, to avoid attitudes like Savannah’s? He’d been protecting Castiel, and the now-former-angel had let him down.
‘I think you should find another seat.’ He told her, and turned to face out of the window, using his body language to make it clear he had nothing further to say.
‘Castiel, I’m trying to save you-‘
‘I can’t be saved. You have no idea.’ He felt an odd sensation behind his eyes, and a deep ache in his chest. She didn’t understand, she couldn’t possibly conceive the truth. There was only one person who could save him now, and that person was Dean. He leaned his head against the window, and felt the tears as they began to roll down his cheeks.
‘Tell me, and I can make it better. Does Dean hurt you?’
Castiel ignored her. He should never have opened up to this girl. Yes she was well-meaning, but there was something rotten at her core, if she couldn’t see why he was so upset by her words. If he still had his grace, he would have been able to recognise that about her straight away. If Dean was here, he would have realised straight away what Savannah was about, he would have steered Castiel away from her. The former angel had never felt as vulnerable as he did right then.
Savannah didn’t seem to realise what his tears were about, however, and she clasped her hands around his.
‘Honey, you don’t have to be his victim anymore. Trust me.’
Castiel couldn’t tell her she was wrong, he was crying too hard, curling up into himself. All she was doing was reminding him of how wonderful Dean was, of how much he owed the hunter.
‘It’s okay Castiel, you cry him out of your system, and it’ll all get better.’ She started smoothing his hair back from his face, and he batted her hand away.
‘Just leave me alone. I am not Dean’s victim, okay? I miss him. I am crying because I miss him. I am going to get him back.’
‘You’ll risk your position in paradise to commit sin with another man?’
Castiel looked at her with a fierce expression in his eyes.
‘I already did. And he’s worth it. Now leave me alone.’
She tutted, and stood up, placing a small card on his lap and shuffling further down the bus, where he heard her loudly explaining to her new neighbour that he was choosing a life of sin over salvation. He threw the card onto the floor, and wiped the tears from his eyes, focusing on the changing landscape for when they would reach Becky’s house.
Castiel had been alive for millennia. He had stood and watched humankind through all its evolution until it resulted in the most perfect man to ever walk the earth. He had been stationary, waiting for a command that felt as though it would never come.
And yet, the idea of waiting through the duration of the bus journey was abhorrent. He had around three-and-a-half weeks left in which to find Dean and win him back, every moment was precious. Spending seven hours in the same chair on a musty bus with broken air conditioning and the incessant chatter of Savannah who seemed intent on vilifying him to everyone was not ideal, especially when it seemed that a lot of the other passengers agreed with her. The fact that Castiel was in love with Dean wasn’t something to be celebrated, it made him dirty somehow, contaminated. The notion that he wasn’t willing to pray out the gay made him evil in their eyes. He was surprised he wasn’t kicked off the bus, made to walk the rest of the route.
But somehow he made it through the ride, and climbed off the bus, feeling dirty and sweaty. If Becky let him back in the house, he was going to have a long shower first thing. He could remember the last time he was in her shower, washing Dean’s body, watching his face contort like he was going to cry. He’d never found out why, he hadn’t wanted to ruin their connection by probing into Dean’s emotions and being shut out. But he would cling to the good memories, of Dean’s trust and their intimacy, and ignore the questions he could never get the answers to.
He walked from the bus station after getting directions to Becky’s house, feeling a little better. He was almost there, almost back with Becky, and Charlie, and Sam. And then it was a short step to Dean, and then he had three entire weeks to try and convince Dean to go back to him. As soon as he reached her street, he broke into a run, as though it would speed up time to race towards his lover.
The lights were off in Becky’s house, but that wasn’t a big deal. Maybe she had gone to bed early, maybe they were watching TV in the darkness. Castiel didn’t hesitate as he pounded up the walk to her door and rang the doorbell, leaning against the frame and panting heavily. He wasn’t used to the effects of exertion. Being human was a lot more complicated than he gave credit for, than he remembered it being. He finally regulated his breathing, and noticed that the door hadn’t opened. He knocked again.
‘If you’re looking for the Winchesters, they’re long gone.’ An all too familiar voice cut through the silence behind him. He turned, glaring, and found Meg leaning on a nearby street lamp. She smirked. ‘Hello, Castiel. Been waiting for you.’